G20 leaders – A Marshall Plan is needed to pull Syria’s neighbors back from the brink

Publication info

Joint Release

The coalition, made up of international NGOs, international political and labor leaders and the global campaigning organisation Avaaz, called on leaders meeting directly across the water from Syria to commit to a plan that provides robust support to Syria’s neighbors who have hosted the vast majority of refugees since that conflict erupted in 2011.

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright said: “After almost five years of conflict, more than four million people have fled Syria in terror - and despite this summer's influx into Europe, 86% of them remain in just five countries. G20 leaders in Turkey this week must focus on the need to rebuild this shattered region so that economic and security conditions are improved. The Middle East Recovery Plan puts important ideas on the table to help the international community forge a better way forward.”

The coalition's campaign is backed by a new report from the Middle East Investment Initiative called 'The Middle East Recovery Plan: Act Now or Pay Later', which makes the case for a Marshall Plan-style investment effort in the countries hosting the majority of Syria’s refugees – Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – to help steady their economies, decrease incentives towards extremism and provide a stable basis for political negotiations towards what Syrians ultimately demand: a political solution to the conflict based on human rights.

Jim Pickup, President of MEII said: "We must build partnerships and alliances with local host communities, Syrian refugee communities as well as international governments, the private sector and civil society organizations to design a comprehensive plan that provides refugees fleeing their homes the opportunity to work and make a better life for themselves and their families."

The Middle East Recovery Plan (MERP) is a proposed recovery program based on mutual cooperation, infrastructural investment and support for local enterprise. Although inspired by the Marshall Plan that helped Europe rise from the ashes of the last World War and become the world’s largest economic bloc, the MERP needs to benefit from the coordinated goodwill and ambition of all G20 leaders, not just the United States.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, Acting Executive Director of Avaaz, said: "G20 leaders are meeting to finally act to stem the suffering of Syrians all over the world and there’s a people’s plan backed by millions waiting for them. This weekend our governments have the power to come together and commit to resettle refugees, provide robust humanitarian aid, protect civilians, and broker real talks for a political transition. If they ignore the call of their citizens, there may be no Syria left to save."

The coalition's call for a grand vision for the Middle East is echoed by a growing chorus coming from business, civil society and women's groups at the G20, as well as a coalition of international humanitarian organizations who launched a report this week calling for bold new deal for Syria’s refugees as a way to tackle the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Writing in 1997, the former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who died this week, reminded the United States that the European Union was one of its own greatest achievements - that one of the greatest political achievements in modern times could not have been realised without the bravery and ambition of those behind the Marshall Plan. Similar ambition and vision is needed now.

Much like Europe nearly seventy years ago, Syria’s neighbors today are experiencing weary, war-torn economies with massive unemployment, dysfunctional social services and huge numbers of refugees. The report shows that a plan to help Syria’s neighbors survive and stabilize, like the Marshall Plan did, would help a region in freefall and serve as an incentive to drive progress on a political solution.

The report shows how this assistance would not only bolster the critically underfunded regional assistance programs, but would also promote long-term investment that would lead to real financial returns for the global economy. The establishment of strong economic institutions and dynamic public-private partnerships that resulted from the original Marshall Plan will also be critical to long-term sustainable development in the Middle East.

Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, President of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said: “Syrians will continue to attempt the deadly crossing as long as conditions in Syria and host nations remain so dire. The G20 leaders, who represent more than 85 percent of global GDP wealth, must seize this opportunity to boldly develop and rapidly ramp up funding and resources to Syria’s neighbors and lay the foundation for a new redevelopment and recovery plan for the region.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Greater coordination between international organizations including the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and G20 countries to design a coordinated strategy for economic development and growth in the region
  • Increasing access to finance for small and medium sized enterprises
  • Legalizing the employment of refugees in host communities

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and convenor of the L20 Labor summit happening in concordance with the G20 said: “The right to work is a guarantee for both refugees and host communities to reap the economic benefits that migrants bring. Leaders must afford refugees the right to work in the formal economy as well as granting them social and political rights.”


For more information, contact: Holly Frew  hfrew@care.org  +1.404.979.9389


  • The report was written by the Middle East Investment Initiative of the Aspen Institute based in Washington DC. It is available at meiinitiative.org.
  • The leading US coalition of 180 humanitarian NGO's, InterAction has also called for the creation of a Regional Growth and Stabilization Plan to help those countries most affected by the Syrian refugee crisis to mitigate the impact of the crisis on their economies, health systems, and social services: http://bit.ly/IA-G20-Syria
  • The coalition mentioned in this release includes a number of international non-governmental organisations, including CARE International, Islamic Relief, Concern Worldwide, Tearfund and Syrian Relief & Development.
  • The engagement groups of the G20 representing business, civil society , workers, women and youth also jointly called on heads of states and governments meeting at the G20 to urgently support development programs in countries where the majority of Syrian refugees are hosted.
  • CARE International and six other humanitarian organisations this week released a report, “Right to a future: empowering refugees from Syria and the countries that host them” that also calls for a new approach by the international community, including Syria’s neighbours; one that gives refugees a chance to contribute to the societies and economies of their hosts.
  • The campaign for a new Marshall Plan for the middle east was bolstered this week by a series of opeds around the world by influential economic and political thinkers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock in Canada, Ruprecht Polenz in Germany and Kemal Kirisci in Turkey.


Credit: Lucy Beck/CARE